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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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How Wildlife Comebacks Happen

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 30, 2013

In Wales, a red kite stoops to conquer (Photo: Mali Halls)

In Wales, a red kite stoops to conquer (Photo: Mali Halls)

News about wildlife often comes across as a litany of catastrophic decline. The startling truth, though, is that we generally succeed when we make the effort to fix a problem, or save a species.

Despite all the outrage and political posturing around the Endangered Species Act, for instance, 90 percent of the species it protects are recovering on schedule. You can see the results of that law, and other federal interventions, almost anywhere. Go to Manhattan’s Central Park, for instance, and with a little effort you can now find red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and a peregrine falcon doing its 200-mile-an-hour killer dive to pick off a pigeon for dinner. All of these species (except the pigeons) were far less common—and the peregrines were actually endangered—until the federal government passed protective legislation in the 1970s, including a ban on the pesticide DDT. The same laws saved our pelicans, ospreys, herons, cormorants and of course our national bird, the bald eagle.

Now Europe is also struggling with the terrible specter of success at species protection. A report out last week by the Zoological Society of London and other conservation groups describes a broad recovery of iconic bird and mammal species across the continent. Gray wolves …   to read the full article, click here.


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